Whether you are now selling digital media or not, the advantages of either doing it exclusively or even adding it to a physical product line are big:

  • No inventory, shipping or fulfillment costs
  • The ability to customize and offer different versions of the products for different audiences and at different pricepoints
  • The potential for recurring revenue, as in the case of ongoing subscriptions
  • The ease and potential for selling worldwide if the product can be translated to different languages (or sold domestically to a non-native language speaking group)
  • There are typically a wide range of products that can be considered which can compliment almost any product line if you consider categories like music, software, interactive training,games, ebooks/emagazines, photos, documents and videos

But whether you are adding a digital download shopping cart from scratch or adding a digital delivery shopping cart section, there are some key considerations you should consider before taking the complete plunge into a digital products shopping cart creation effort.

Finding A Niche For Digital Downloads For Your Shopping Cart

Unless you plan on producing your own digital download content, it will hard to stand out as a digital products shopping cart creator. But that shouldn't stop engaging in this type of business model as there is so much demand for this type product. The key is in deciding what to stock and how to market it with a distinct advantage for your projected customer base including:

  • Creating your own reviews and recommendations and/or surveying your own customer base on their reactions
  • Creating or bundling previews from a variety of offerings into one download (if allowed by the publisher)
  • Offering the digital content with different pricing for limited time viewing or on a per use basis (which can allow upgrading for longer time ownership to the existing customer)
  • Looking for products which can be private labeled or rebranded (as in the case of training, technical manuals, etc.)
  • Localizing the content selection, for instance promoting a local band to customers living in that area or creating minisections on your website devoted to certain authors and topics
  • Specializing in new releases, fresh looks or other "first on the block" approaches to woo those important early adopters (who are less price sensitive than later buyers), or going the other way and creating libraries of out of print or public domain works which appeal to a "long tail" type demand

While creating a price advantage may be an obvious approach, many publishers restrict pricing so that all distributors must offer the same levels. This can also make promotions difficult, so when evaluating which products to take on, look at overall pricing and ask if "fixed pricing" is a mandate. (Of course, fixed prices can eliminate a competitor's advantage over you so they can be an advantage as long as larger volume distributors are also bound to this rule.)

Keeping track of payments to the original publishers may also be an issue, particularly if you are constructing more of a "one off" type of product line. Larger distributors and sources may likely require download from their servers to help them keep track of this issue, although you may be able to negotiate serving from you digital shopping cart to maintain more control.

Making Versus Buying Items For Your Digital Download Shopping Cart

Whether you are going to be some type of content producer or a reseller of other's content depends upon your own business model approach. While it may seem daunting to create content that is indeed saleable, there are usually many options outside of taking the time of doing it yourself. These can include:

  • Hiring a freelancer or subject matter expert to create written content
  • Doing interviews with industry experts or notables for written content
  • Using "for hire" coders for creation of different types and levels of software
  • Purchasing master resale rights or private label rights which allow you more flexibility in pricing and how you distribute the digital media (i.e. from your own server) or variations on this theme such as unlimited resale or copyright (allowing changes or modifications from the original)
  • Exclusive/semi-exclusive content reselling arrangements (such as recording seminars or other sessions from various organizations and gaining exclusive rights to sell those online)
  • Repurposing out of copyright works

Of course you can offer any type of restricted rights download, many of which come pre-packaged by some groups into areas or sections of products.

What To Look For In A Digital Download Shopping Cart

While there are many ways to actually distribute your digital downloads including from your own server or using a totally packaged approach, most of these either have per unit costs associated with the download, or can require technical expertise and maintenance that many online merchants are not able or willing to provide. A middle ground is to choose a digital-download enabled shopping cart, capable of supporting virtual or downloadable products. Some key considerations in reviewing or choosing this feature include:

  • Ability to serve a wide variety of formats including PDF, MP3, JPG, MOV, etc. in large enough sizes to fit your media
  • Easy to manage upload system, including the ability to import both large files and collections of files (i.e. in compressed format folders like .zip files)
  • Management tools for your digital library including the ability to reorganize and associate the file with different (and often multiple) product pages
  • Assignment of activiation codes, particularly important for selling software and other items that need protection from unauthorized use
  • Instant downloading to avoid customer call back and servicing issues and other variations such as emailed download links, expiration dates on downloading or limiting the number of downloads or attempts (for security purposes)
  • Confirmation of credit card validity before downloading (to ensure products are paid for properly)
  • Encryption of download links to prevent hacking and unauthorized access of the digital download
  • Ability to notify users of any license restrictions on the product

You may also want the ability to actually distribute and sell physical media since some buyers may want a CD (particularly in the case of software).

Marketing Your Digital Downloads, Through Your Digital Goods Shopping Cart And Beyond

As with any new product you add, marketing should be included in your normal activities which may include:

  • Pay per click and organic search
  • Affiliate marketing programs
  • Media releases
  • Email marketing
  • etc.

However, digital media served through a digital goods shopping cart do open up more potentials for using the products themselves in promotional efforts. For instance, running "sampling" campaigns can be very valuable (depending upon any rights limitations from the sources if you aren't the original publisher). In this mode, various snippets or excerpts are posted to other websites and/or provided to other media sources such as online magazines or blogs. A technique for gaining greater recognition and use of this type of offering is to associate it with (or "peg" it) to any current item that is being searched for on a volume basis. For example, if there is a current legal dispute involving a particular notable person who may have made racially charged remarks, and you have a training package for anti-discrimination, you may be able to tie the two together, as in "Effective Anti-Discrimination Training A Deterrent For Problems Like Anytown, USA Mayor Has Recently Experienced".

Another technique involves "cross-media" sampling. This is where the content exists in one medium (say an audio book) and you transcribe it into text to be distributed in part. The value of this is that the content typically has not been translated into print before and will be considered "unique" or non-duplicated text by search engines and potentially ranked higher.